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Salomonsson, B. (1989). Music and Affects Psychoanalytic Viewpoints. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 12(2):126-144.

(1989). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 12(2):126-144

Music and Affects Psychoanalytic Viewpoints

Björn Salomonsson

In this article I will discuss some connections between music and affects. I will take it as self-evident that when we listen to music we experience affects. But what kind of affects are evoked? The same as in other fields of human experience, or are they specific to music? We can proceed and ask: what properties does music have, as contrasted to the spoken language, that renders it prone to affect evocation? Can we identify general properties in music? I think we can and I intend to show this by discussing theoretically some traits in the world of sound that facilitate affect evocation. Material for the discussion will be taken from my own affective associations to short musical examples. These associations are not given with the intent of creating a musical “affect glossary”. They are given in order to provide material for a more general discussion of the worlds of sound, music and affects.

Methodological Problems

Problems due to the nature of music

This discussion is preferrably introduced by two quotations of Freud, where he makes some of the few statements he ever made on music. In “The Moses of Michelangelo” (Freud, 1914), he describes how works of art exercise a powerful influence on him, especially those of literature and sculpture, less often of painting. Facing such works, he spends “a long time before them trying to apprehend them in my own way, i.e., to explain to myself what their effect is due to”. Then comes something interesting for our discussion:

Whenever I cannot do this, as for instance with music, I am almost incapable of obtaining any pleasure.

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